If I were to ask you for the ingredients for a successful life, what would your list look like? Long life? Health? Family? Just as baking or cooking require ingredients, so does life. I could ask all kinds of questions, such as,” where do you find those ingredients? Is there some kind of standard that the ingredients are judged by? How has the product turned out where the ingredients have been used before”? I have watched people who have used various ingredients as I have journeyed through my life. I have made it a priority to try to keep the ingredients of life Bible based. There are three ingredients listed for us in Hebrews 11. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen”. There are three ingredients listed for us: Faith, Hope and Conviction.

I have spent my life trying to understand the Bible so I could teach it to others. I can study the chapter, then he verses, then look for phrases, and lastly words. Words are key to understanding. What do these words mean? According to the dictionary, the definition of hope is “a confident expectation that a desire will be fulfilled; something which you long to be realized”. The dictionary explains faith as “a process of logical thought which cannot be proved; complete acceptance of a truth; a virtue in which a Christian believes in a revealed truth about God”. Am I right in saying that hope come before faith? Is it possible that hope can lead to faith? Why does the book of Hebrews say, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for…”. If I have no hope is it impossible to receive faith?

There is a story that is told in Luke 24. Two men are walking to a village called Emmaus. They had been to Jerusalem for the Passover and had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. Their thoughts and conversation was heavy and I am honest when I say, they were depressed? Then, a third person joins them as they walk. They are asked what their conversation is about and why they were so depressed. Their response is interesting. They ask the stranger; do you not know what just happened in the city? A man by the name of Jesus was crucified. I pick up the conversation in verse 21, “but we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, now it has been three days since all this happened”. These men had lost hope and it was deeply affecting their emotions.

As I think on this, I come to the conclusion that hope is one of the ingredients of a successful life. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Without hope my ability to put faith in God is affected. I compare hope to the batteries in my flashlight. As I put fresh batteries in, I have a bright light. As I drain, the stored electricity from those batteries, my light becomes dimmer and dimmer. The light does not go out all at once, but it is a gradual process. The same happens in my life. As I lose hope, my faith is affected and gradually I find all the juice has drained from my life. I become like a robot, merely going through the functions of life.

My thoughts go to Job, whose story is told in the Old Testament. Job had a good life. He had a happy home, he was successful, and he was a man who pleased God. But through a series of tragedies, Job lost it all, including his health. His wife told him to give up his faith, that it was worthless. Job answered her, “I came into this world naked and I will leave naked, but I will not curse God”. Somehow, he was able to hang onto hope. He proclaims, “though He slay me, I will still trust him”. Then in the 19th chapter he proclaims, “Oh that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! That with an iron stylus on lead, they were engraved in rock forever. As for me, I know that my redeemer lives, and at last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is flayed, yet without my flesh, I shall see God”. It is always a challenge to maintain our hope when the train comes off the tracks. If we base our hope only on circumstances, hope will leak out like water running through a sieve.
Many times, I have asked God the same question David asks in Psalm 42. “Why are you in despair oh my soul? Why have you become disturbed within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence”. Hope and despair are two words in tension here. David had known despair. Saul had hunted him like the hunter hunts his prey. David had hidden himself in caves and in the deserts of despair. Despite all this, he maintained his hope and later in the same Psalm he says, “…His song will be with me in the night and a prayer to the God of my life”.

If I were to ask you for a word that is the opposite of hope, what would it be? There may be several words that come to mind, but certainly the words “fear” and “despair” come to mind. It is so easy to begin life with a happy heart, full of hope and excited about the future. Then he unexpected happens; relationships, sickness and disease, financial distress and things appear on the horizon that in earlier years I never anticipated. The energy in my batteries begins to fade and the light gets dimmer. Hope fades and toxic emotions grow in their place.

Is there an answer? Perhaps the Psalmist helps us here in Psalm 73. He looked around and he was losing hope. You can tell as he writes, “my feet came close to stumbling’ my steps slipped.”. Why? He tells me, “I looked around, I saw the prosperity of the wicked, …their body is fat, they are not in trouble like me, they are violent evil people, they mock me and speak wickedly”. He begins to get things straightened out and hope is rekindled, as he says in verse 16, “when I pondered to understand this, I was troubled [lost hope] until I went into the sanctuary…then I perceived their end”.

When we get our eyes off God, hope fades quickly. A few weeks ago, we watched the story of Joni Erickson Tada. She lost all movement from her neck down and has lived life as a quadriplegic.

It would be so easy to lose all hope and allow despair to enter and control my life. The batteries run down, and I am left with very little hope. I merely exist. God offers us hope here in this life and an eternity with Him.

What ingredients are you putting into your life?

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